Chapter Five: USCIS Processing

The Receipt Notice

Once the USCIS receives your petition the first thing it will do is conduct an initial review to make sure your petition meets the basic requirements to be accepted for filing. This initial review includes making sure the form is properly signed and the check for the filing fee is in the proper amount. Assuming the petition meets the basic filing requirements it will be accepted by the USCIS for processing. Your case will be assigned a case number and the USCIS will send you a receipt notice indicating that your petition was accepted. Its a good idea to mark your calendar about 45 days from the date you submitted your petition so you can follow up with the USCIS if you did not receive a receipt notice.

Once you receive your receipt notice put it in a safe place as you may need it for future reference. The receipt number for your case will be located in the upper right hand corner of the receipt notice. A sample receipt notice is included in the Appendix of this Guide for your reference. Be sure to reference this receipt number in any future correspondence with the USCIS. You can also use your receipt number to check your case status online or sign up for automated case status updates.

Upon receipt of your receipt notice mark your calendar 45 days from the date you received your receipt notice to check on the status of your case. You should receive a biometrics appointment notice within 30-60 days of your receipt notices. Contact USCIS customer service if you have not received your biometrics appointment notice in this time frame.

*Important Note: Your I-751 receipt notice will state that employment and travel are authorized and this document must be presented along with your expired conditional resident card to evidence employment authorization and for return entry to the United States. DO NOT travel outside the United States without your expired conditional resident card and this document.


Biometrics Appointment

Shortly after you receive your receipt notice (usually in about 45 days) your spouse will receive a USCIS notice instructing her to appear at a USCIS Application Support Center to have her fingerprints and photograph taken. Be sure to put the date and time for this appointment on your calendar. Although biometrics appointments may be rescheduled, I would strongly discourage you from rescheduling your biometrics appointment unless it is an absolute emergency as this can greatly increase processing times and increase the likelihood of case errors. A sample Biometrics Notice is included in the appendix.

On the date of your appointment be sure to take the following with you to your biometrics appointment:

Biometrics Appointment Checklist

  • Your original biometrics appointment notice
  • Your conditional resident card
  • Any other documentation requested in the Biometrics Appointment Notice


Dealing with a Request for Evidence

In some cases, the USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) after conducting its preliminary review of your I-751 petition. RFEs are issued in cases where the USCIS does not have sufficient supporting documentation to process the case. In these cases, the USCIS issues a Request for Evidence requesting that the missing evidence be submitted withing a certain time frame. We have include a sample RFE in the appendix. If you receive an RFE don't panic and following these steps:

RFE Response Plan

  • Identify the required response deadline and put this on your calendar so you don't forget.
  • Read the RFE carefully and determine what evidence the USCIS is requesting. (Often the RFEs are written in general terms and may ask for evidence you believe you already submitted. Most often this means that the USCIS found whatever you submitted to be inadequate so make sure you submit new evidence.)
  • Submit all of the requested evidence at once—you only get one chance and cannot submit additional evidence later even if it is before the stated deadline.


Once you have obtained the additional evidence requested make sure to do the following when responding to the USCIS request:

RFE Response Steps

  • Prepare a cover letter outlining the additional evidence that is being submitted. Be sure to reference your name, case receipt number and A number in the Re line of the cover letter. We have included a sample cover letter in response to an RFE which you can use as an example.
    In the Re line of the cover letter write “RESPONSE TO REQUEST FOR EVIDENCE”
  • Include a copy of the RFE with your response.
  • Make sure you mail the response to the RFE to the address indicated on the RFE and write your receipt number, Alien Number and nature of the submission on the outside of the envelope like this:

    RESPONSE TO REQUEST FOR EVIDENCE
    WAC-0345-98235-09999
    A0876122898

  • Submit the response in plenty of time so that is will arrive at the USCIS before the deadline. Make sure you use a mailing service that provides you with proof of delivery.


The I-751 Interview

The I-751 interview is the last step in the I-751 petition process. Once the USCIS has completed its processing of your petition at the Service Center and the applicant's biometrics have been taken, the case will be forwarded to a local USCIS District Office for a personal interview. The USCIS Service Center will issue an appointment notice directing the CLPR and the joint applicant U.S. Citizen or LPR spouse to appear at a USCIS District Office for an interview with a USCIS officer. We have included a sample interview notice in the appendix. The interview will be scheduled at the USCIS District Office which has jurisdiction over your place of residence. When you receive the appointment notice put the date on your calendar. The I-751 interview can be rescheduled for good cause but I would strongly discourage you from rescheduling your interview unless it is a true emergency. Be sure you have the following prepared to take with you on the day of the interview:

I-751 Interview Checklist

  • The original I-751 Appointment Notice
  • Your expired CLPR Card
  • A complete copy of your I-751 petition
  • Copies of any other documentation you received from or submitted to the USCIS
  • Any other documents requested in the interview notice


Personal interviews are always the most worrisome part of dealing with the USCIS for most people. In fact, most I-751 interviews are very short and painless. In the average case, the USCIS officer will simply review the application and supporting documentation and confirm the accuracy and completeness by asking the applicants a few questions. The interview on a well documented I-751 petition where no “red flags” are present generally will not last more than 15 minutes or so. However, the USCIS officer may conduct a more in-depth interview if one or more “red flags” are present in your case. An example of a “red flag” would be a petition which shows that the applicants have not been living in the same residence or were not living in the same residence for some extended period of time.

You may have noticed that the form cover letter we provided for this petition requests a waiver of the I-751 interview. If the waiver is granted you will not have to attend an interview and the you will simply receive an approval notice a new permanent resident card in the mail. The USCIS does not often grant waivers of the personal interview so do not be surprised or alarmed if the waiver is not granted in your case. Generally speaking, the USCIS only grants interview waivers in those cases that include very strong evidence of a legitimate marital relationship. Most of the cases I have handled (including my own) where an interview waiver was granted where cases were the applicants had children born to the marriage as the USCIS considers this very strong evidence of a legitimate marital relationship.

In many cases the USCIS officer will notify you if the petition has been approved at the end of the interview but in some cases they will not. In any cases, after the interview is completed you should receive an approval notice in the mail within 30 days from the date of the interview. We have included a sample approval notice in the Appendix for your reference. Shortly after the approval notice and usually within 60 days you will receive your LPR card in the mail. Make sure to mark your calendar about 60 days from the date you received the approval notice to follow up with the USCIS if you have not yet received your LPR card.

Chapter Six: The Approval Notice and Post Adjudication Issues

Phil

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